Chest pain is a very common complaint with teenagers. Annually, over 650,000 youngsters between the age group of 10 and 18 years seek medical attention for this symptom. Most teens get anxious on experiencing chest pain, presuming the cause of the pain to be a heart disease or cancer.
However, fortunately in most cases the cause is not linked to a heart problem. Cardiovascular disease in this age group is an extremely rare, even unheard of, cause of chest pain. However, such pains disrupt the general routine as many curtail extra-curricular activities and others stay home from school.
The most frequent finding with respect to the cause of chest pain in teenagers is tenderness of the chest wall and the most common chest wall disorder is the precordial catch syndrome. In this condition, the pain occurs very briefly for about 30 seconds and the adolescent experiences sharp discomfort beneath the left nipple occurring at rest or with mild activity. Such kind of pain may be caused by poor posture, therefore classrooms and libraries are likely places for it to strike. However, the state is not serious and the pain disappears in time. It is the precordial catch syndrome that scares teens because the gripping pain makes them truly believe they are having a heart attack. Thus, it is important for teenagers to be aware of the fact that pain originating from the heart is almost always located in the center of the chest and is described as crushing in nature frequently radiating down an arm. Another common form of chest pain in teens is a condition called chostrochondritis, more commonly found in girls. This problem is marked by inflammation in the joints that connect the ribs to the sides of the breast bone, causing pain in this area. This condition is often preceded by a mild respiratory infection or by exercise. At times, the pain worsens by breathing and the discomfort may radiate to the chest, back or abdomen.
Teens involved in regular athletic activities frequently experience chest pain that results from smashes with other athletes or muscle sprains due to lack of proper warming up. Weightlifters and gymnasts occasionally develop stress rib fractures as a cause of their chest pain. Other types of non-cardiac chest pain include growing pains, which are reflected in a dull aching pain localized around the center of the chest. Breast enlargement that occurs in both boys and girls during adolescence is a source of chest pain as well. Fast eating habit leads to food getting stuck in the esophagus, which causes esophageal spasm; a squeezing pain in the center of the chest that is gets worse by swallowing. Heartburn, caused by stomach contents washing up the esophagus can also feel like pain in the chest.
Heart and lung disease are rather infrequent causes of chest pain in teens. Infections of the lining of the lungs can cause fever and pain with breathing; while smoking or infections can cause coughing and pain in the windpipe. It has been observed that children with asthma or other lung problems have more problems with chest wall muscle spasm. A cardiac pain almost always occurs with exertion and the patient finds his or her heart to be pounding. Only proper physical examination and laboratory tests can confirm the actual origin of the pain.
In over 45 percent of cases, the real cause for the chest pain cannot be evaluated. While these teens complain of real pain, no medical illness is apparent. Perhaps some of this is due to normal adolescent anxiety and stress. With the new generation, stress seems to be an extremely potent cause of chest pain and the reason is definitely so if the pain persists for more than four months. Fortunately, majority of cases of chest pain in teens are caused by conditions that carry an excellent outlook for normal health and well-being.
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